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A Ten-Stage Protocol for Assessing the Welfare of Individual Non-Captive Wild Animals: Free-Roaming Horses (Equus Ferus Caballus) as an Example

1
Centre for Compassionate Conservation, Faculty of Science, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia
2
Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre, School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Palmerston North 4474, New Zealand
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(1), 148; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010148
Received: 27 November 2019 / Revised: 10 January 2020 / Accepted: 14 January 2020 / Published: 16 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Welfare)
Vital for informing debates about the ways we interact with wild animals and their associated habitats is knowledge of their welfare status. To date, scientific assessments of the welfare of free-roaming wild animals during their normal day-to-day lives are not available, in part because the required methodology had not been developed. Accordingly, we have devised, and here describe, a ten-stage protocol for systematically and scientifically assessing the welfare of individual non-captive wild animals, using free-roaming horses as an example. Applying this ten-stage protocol will enable biologists to scientifically assess the welfare of wild animals and should lead to significant advances in the field of wild animal welfare.
Knowledge of the welfare status of wild animals is vital for informing debates about the ways in which we interact with wild animals and their habitats. Currently, there is no published information about how to scientifically assess the welfare of free-roaming wild animals during their normal day-to-day lives. Using free-roaming horses as an example, we describe a ten-stage protocol for systematically and scientifically assessing the welfare of individual non-captive wild animals. The protocol starts by emphasising the importance of readers having an understanding of animal welfare in a conservation context and also of the Five Domains Model for assessing welfare. It goes on to detail what species-specific information is required to assess welfare, how to identify measurable and observable indicators of animals’ physical states and how to identify which individuals are being assessed. Further, it addresses how to select appropriate methods for measuring/observing physical indicators of welfare, the scientific validation of these indicators and then the grading of animals’ welfare states, along with assigning a confidence score. Finally, grading future welfare risks and how these can guide management decisions is discussed. Applying this ten-stage protocol will enable biologists to scientifically assess the welfare of wild animals and should lead to significant advances in the field of wild animal welfare. View Full-Text
Keywords: Five Domains; welfare assessment; wildlife; free-roaming; wild; feral; horses Five Domains; welfare assessment; wildlife; free-roaming; wild; feral; horses
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Harvey, A.M.; Beausoleil, N.J.; Ramp, D.; Mellor, D.J. A Ten-Stage Protocol for Assessing the Welfare of Individual Non-Captive Wild Animals: Free-Roaming Horses (Equus Ferus Caballus) as an Example. Animals 2020, 10, 148.

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